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12° Nicosia,
13 July, 2024
 
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From China's cultural revolution to Cyprus' church scandal

The scandalous intersection of faith and exploitation

George Kakouris

George Kakouris

In the classic science fiction novel ''The Three-Body Problem,'' the traumatic experience of a Chinese astrophysicist during the Cultural Revolution becomes the catalyst for humanity's first contact with extraterrestrial beings. Despite warnings that aliens may invade Earth, the astrophysicist responds to their message and essentially betrays the location of our planet. Her motivation stems from cynicism and disillusionment with humanity, following her experiences many years prior.

Many have wondered how the book, published in 2008, passed through the censorship of the Communist Party of China, given that it portrays the Cultural Revolution as a catastrophic process that led to a scientist believing humanity is unworthy of survival.

If (the Church) considers itself to have Christ as its head, that is its own right and the right of its faithful to believe it. However, it is not an obligation of the state and the broader society.

However, the novel has not been banned in China, as the official stance on the Cultural Revolution is that it was misguided and excessive. The political system itself is not directly questioned. The logic is that the system itself is not flawed, but rather it's the people who err or become corrupted. Through China, we can somewhat draw parallels to the situation in Cyprus. According to an announcement by the Holy Synod, cited in the blog of colleague Aristides Viketos (ageliaforos.com), the Orthodox Church "is not ontologically affected, but its pastoral and sanctifying work is affected due to the scandal of the faithful." Additionally, commentators and writers, as well as people who consider themselves faithful, point out that the issue is not faith itself, but its exploitation. A friend in Nicosia recounted a conversation she had with someone who didn't closely follow the scandal of the Avvakoum monastery. When this person saw the video of the monk beating a woman, they wondered how a father could do such a thing. Upon learning that the accused was involved in the misuse of hundreds of thousands of euros, they responded, "Well, then he's not a normal father."

Of course, the scandal does not necessarily lead to the cancellation of anyone's religious faith. There's a difference between faith and good Christian behavior, and charlatans, hypocrites, and deceivers. However, let's remember that it's not necessary to believe in God, or in a specific God, to avoid being a charlatan, hypocrite, or deceiver. The problem begins and ends with the structural weaknesses of the Church of Cyprus, as an organization that is both political and economic, without taxation, without substantial oversight, with internal legal procedures in which for some reason, the Law of the state gives partial priority, and with a dominant position in society and public discourse. And with a lot, a lot, a lot of hypocrisy in the behavior of those, priests, monks, even bishops, who exploit their central position in Cypriot society to enrich themselves. And hypocrisy through sermons about the sexual and moral practices of citizens, which seems to be acceptable only when it remains hidden, covered under robes and beards. In the report on A. Viketos's blog, the secretary of the Holy Synod, responding to a question about whether the archbishop wants to close the case as soon as possible, answered affirmatively, adding that the goal is "to prevent the scandal of the faithful, especially during the period of Great Lent that we are going through."

However, whether the faithful will be scandalized and whether the Church is not ours to judge is a problem for us, the many who have a "social" relationship with religion as a framework of cultural customs and community-building. And it certainly isn't a problem for the State and the government. If, then, just as the Chinese cannot question the primacy of the Chinese Communist Party, we cannot question the tight embrace that the Orthodox Church has held on Cypriot society for centuries, let us at least question the deeply, sickeningly hypocritical exploitation that various opportunists wield for their own purposes.

This questioning begins with a mature discussion about the political and social privileges of this organization, and its place in modern society. The Church is not a supra-party and suprapolitical organization, but an organization composed of people. If it considers itself to have Christ as its head, that is its own right and the right of its faithful to believe it. However, it is not an obligation of the state and the broader society.

[This article was translated from its Greek original and edited for clarity and brevity]

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